Both candidates for the Board of Supervisors in the Jack Jouett district, incumbent independent Dennis Rooker and Republican challenger Christian Schoenwald, debated at a forum held at Jack Jouett Middle School on Monday night. Topics addressed included rural protection, the business community, the neighborhood development model, growth areas, property tax assessments, transportation, and development. Happily, the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors sponsored the recording of the event for the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. It’s available on the CPN website, and is 1:23 long. If you live in the Jack Jouett district, you’ve got no excuse for not listening. Do friends in the district a favor and e-mail them a link to the debate, so they can cast an informed vote.
8 thoughts on “Rooker/Schoenwald BoS Debate”
Schoenwald’s attack on the new urbanist neighborhood model is totally misguided. He makes three faulty complaints about it which, when tallied up, amount of a strong endorsement of new urbanism on his part. He just doesn’t know it yet.
First, Charlottesville is not “a given population.” It’s an area comprised of an abnormally large number of people that it’s totally cool to brick over Main Street, ride Vespas, and live in old warehouses. Second, I want to know what percentage of a given population is interested in having to fight traffic and pay $3/gallon in order to accomplish the most trivial task, whether it be go to work, pick up a gallon of milk, visit a neighbor, or take their kids to school. I’m thinking it’s less than a majority.
More to the point, who wants 100% of Albemarle to be a “new urbanist community”? Most of us are perfectly happy to live out in the woods. But if 15% of Albemarle lived in new urbanist communities, that would be wonderful!
Schoenwald has unintentionally provided a fantastic endorsement for new urbanism here.
Indeed, and a simple glance at the writings of new urbanists (Kunstler and DPZ come to mind immediately) will reveal that this is for two reasons. First because standard planning models require tremendous expenses for the developers, because they have to fight the planning commission tooth and nail to build proper roads, lot sizes, and mixed-use areas, because the standard planning model rigidly demands bad neighborhoods. Delightfully, as Schoenwald points out, Albemarle has won a pair of awards from the Congress for New Urbanism for their new urbanist neighborhood models. The result of which is that much of that 25% increase disappears because of Albemarle’s good sense.
The second problem here is that Schoenwald has demonstrated a lack of understanding of the real costs of housing. I live out in the Southwest Mountains. It costs me about $3 in gasoline every trip to town, plus however many dollars in depreciation on my car. When I go downtown or to UVa, I pay, what, $1.50/hour to park? It also means that my wife and I have to have separate cars, since she works in town and I work at home. Now, the average car costs ~$6,100/year to keep on the road, between payments, insurance, maintenance and gas. If I live in my home for 15 years, that’s $91,500 that I’ll spend on a car. If we lived downtown, we’d only need one car. She could take the bus to work, and I could walk, so we wouldn’t even need our car very often. We can afford an additional $91,500 for our house, just by getting rid of our car. Go, us!
There are many, many more costs, of course. The costs of busing kids to school instead of walking. The costs to our health of not even having the option of walking or bicycling. The costs to our elderly of having to move into a special old-people’s home, since our existing neighborhood model prevents them from getting out, walking around, visiting neighbors and, most important, being visited themselves. The costs of our ever-expanding Rt. 29 and feeder roads as we accommodate more and more traffic from vast suburban tracts that are completely reliant on trips to and from Charlottesville for the most trivial of errands. The costs of that pollution, our reliance on foreign oil, and maintaining our existing roads (for which Virginia complete runs out of funds in 2018, with absolutely no plan to solve).
I could — and have — go on for hours on the hidden costs of our development model. Suffice it to say, Mr. Schoenwald shows a terrible lack of understanding of the true costs of housing with this claim.
O noes! Americans #1 form of investment is going to pay off unusually handsomely for Albemarle residents? This is bad…why?
He’s right, of course — the value does skyrocket. Why? Simple: people really want to live in these neighborhoods. Many people don’t realize it until they actually see them (hence the low polling, at 15%, and the quick increase in value subsequent to construction). The solution? Increase supply!What Mr. Schoenwald demonstrated here is that somewhere north of 13,000 Albemarle citizens would like to live in a new urbanist neighborhood, there are real costs savings to be found in doing so, and those people who buy houses there will have made a shrewd investment that will pay off handsomely when they choose to sell.
Thanks, Mr. Schoenwald!
Charlottesville Tomorrow has posted a podcast AND transcript of the first debate in Earlysville here: http://action.cvilletomorrow.org/cvilleaction/elections.html
Update… Today, Charlottesville Tomorrow has made a written transcript of the second candidate forum available on our Election Watch page. The public may find that PDF format helpful as well. http://action.cvilletomorrow.org/cvilleaction/elections.html
It’s bad because unless you’re a transplant from somewhere else with plenty of funds, either because you’re a proffessional or have sold real estate for a profit in another- higher cost of living- part of the country, and are relocating to the Charlottesville Albemarle area…
It’s bad because if you’re not that sort of person, if you’re one of the thousands that fill the jobs in the area that cater to transplants (Restaurants, Grocery Stores- any type of store, an office worker at a private company or the University, etc. – you get the idea)… It’s bad then because of the “high increases in valuation” if you are “working class” then you cannot afford to purchase real estate in the area.
It’s an unfortunately self perpetuating cycle that, like ripples on a pond from a thrown stone, moves outward from the center. And it’s one for which I do not have an easy solution.
I would say it’s odd to hear a Republican borrowing Democrat theme’s, and a Democrat sounding like a Republican. I would say that but then it’s really not that odd, and is one of the reasons I became an independant years ago.
All this said. I do like the idea behind “new urbanism.” In the long run it’s just sensible development practice. Without it, AND plans to preserve the rural character of the region, eventually we’ll just end up like places such as Los Angeles or New Jersey where one municipality abuts another with no noticible change in geography.
And who knows that may still happen. :)
There are a few problems with this, though. The first is that the high increase in valuation isn’t forever, it’s only for the first few years. The second is that it’s a phenomenon that’s unique to new developments — once people in the region are hip to new urbanist development, the big jumps cease. The third is that nobody’s proposing that the whole of Albemarle be developed as new urbanist neighborhoods. So even if the cost of admission is higher in Mr. Scheonwald’s 15% target, there’s still 85% of the county that’s unchanged and as accessible as always.
I would say it’s odd to hear a Republican borrowing Democrat theme’s, and a Democrat sounding like a Republican.
I was thinking about this this afternoon! My theory is that party affiliations matter far less on the local level.
The third is that nobody’s proposing that the whole of Albemarle be developed as new urbanist neighborhoods.
Well, for the most part, larger builders are building most of the houses in the County. The economy of scale means that they should theoretically be able to build more cheaply, but they are unable to because 1) of the restrictions placed on them by the County (which in theory are fairly reasonable) and 2) more importantly, the Neighborhood Model is a moving target; this target means that development takes longer, thus driving prices up for the developer and therefore for the consumer. A very small percentage of the County is in the designated growth zones – if the County would make building there more efficient, developers would not be driven to the rural areas, which increases sprawl, infrastructure costs, pollution, et. al.
You’re absolutely right about the effects of moving targets, Jim. Development standards need to be standard. If those standards aren’t static, it unreasonable to expect any developer to attempt to adhere to them. Easier to skip the whole process.
I follow these issues closely, and I’m hearing the moving target language a good bit. I buy it in regard to development over the last five years, especially with developments like Hollymead and Belvedere that had the bad fortune of trying to squeeze through while the Neighborhood Model was being implemented. However, the Neighborhood Model is done. The target isn’t moving anymore. Those growing pains are over. The central problem now, as I see it, is the County’s failure to highlight the advantages of development in the Development Area (infrastructure and greater density), and it’s slow pace in implementing any effective measures to slow and control growth in the rural area.
I agree that approvals in the development area take far too long, and I believe that the county should adopt a charette-based approach that involves all the stakeholders at the design’s inception, rather than after it’s completion. I know a lot of lawsuits would be avoided that way, and a lot of wasted time and money.
Also, I’d like to mention that wireless clouds across the development areas might be a tempting incentive for development.
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